Are Energy Reporting Requirements a Slippery Slope?

September 14, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

market report general energy manageMunicipalities are grappling with the issue of whether buildings should be required to report their energy use.

Of course, requiring such reporting opens the possibilities of increasing energy efficiency, saving money and operating in a more environmentally sound manner. In other words, what gets measured gets managed. However, the idea of compelled reporting rankles some. It also is possible that they see a slippery slope to requiring that improvements be made.

On Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Florida city may require buildings of more than 50,000 square feet – its largest – to measure and report energy use. The goal of the measure, according to the city’s director of sustainability, is to inform owners on their usage and upgrades that could add efficiency. No steps would be required, though those not reporting usage would be fined $2,000 annually. The city council, the story says, will consider the proposal at a meeting tomorrow.

Evanston, IL, is another municipality wrestling with the issue of whether or not to require buildings to report their energy use. In July, aldermen took a pass on ruling on such a requirement for commercial buildings. Water and natural gas usage reporting also were part of the proposal, which had the backing of city staff and the Utilities Commission, according to Evanston Now. The property manager said that owners already are aware of their buildings’ use and the ordinance therefore was unnecessary. (A good slide deck on the benchmarking ordinance is here.)

The story said that a city official noted that about 19 communities across the country have similar rules in effect. The story concluded that the measure was to be taken up again last month, but there is no more recent reporting on the topic.

There is no other community in the country bigger than New York City, and — as noted at Energy Manager Today last month – it has had success with energy reporting requirements. Crain’s New York Business reported on the city’s findings:

The report found a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and energy use at 3,000 properties that had an unblemished record of compliance between 2010 and 2013. About 10,000 building provided enough information in 2013 to be analyzed in other sections of the report. “Hard data shows the new city laws are having their intended impact, and it’s substantial,” said Russell Unger, executive director of Urban Green Council.

Seattle is another major city with benchmarking and reporting requirements. Greenspace reported in late July that 99 percent of required buildings were in compliance with the rules. The story looks at next steps, which include making reports of participating buildings available and educational round tables for owners, managers and vendors (three have been held).

The story says that reporting requirements may be expanded to other types of buildings. The idea of those opposed to such requirements is that they may lead to more stringent demands that will hurt their bottom lines or mandate unwanted changes to their agendas. The story implies that this may be so: It says that one subject at the roundtables were rule changes.

In June, Denver released a report from The Energize Denver Task Force recommending that the city’s energy reporting initiative for multifamily and commercial buildings be transitioned from voluntary to mandatory due to low participation. The task force recommends that by Jan. 1, 2017 mandatory benchmarking of buildings of more than 25,000 square feet be undertaken. Energy Star benchmarking is to be used, the results published and energy efficiency measures undertaken.

The city’s goal is to reduce enrgy use by 10 percent by the end of 2020. The report says that mandatory benchmarking exists in Atlanta; Austin,  TX; Berkeley; Boulder, Cambridge, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Few people – if any – oppose buildings that run more efficiently. An area of disagreement that may emerge, however, on whether reporting rules should be mandatory or voluntary. It is a topic worth watching.

2 comments on “Are Energy Reporting Requirements a Slippery Slope?

  1. Few people – if any – oppose buildings that run more efficiently. I agree.

    So why do we need any more bureaucratic interference into the realm of businesses?

    Every business seeks to minimize their operating costs. It is not helpful when the gov forces operating costs to increase by filling out forms, just because someone thinks it would be interesting data to have.

  2. Many of the benchmarking requirements use incorrect “source energy” or “primary energy” multipliers, which punishes buildings for using renewable electricity from the grid and rewards buildings for using inefficient gas or oil furnaces or boilers. As a result, efficient buildings that don’t produce emissions can get a worse “score” than buildings that produce a lot of emissions and use more energy.

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